I’m writing this at the end of 2016, but I’m pretty sure I won’t publish it until the start of 2017, so I trust you all had a lovely festive season and have eaten your own body weight in chocolate, as I have…
In reality, it would probably have made much more sense to start a brand new blog at the start of a brand new year, but a) the fact that my whole life revolves around horses only serves to prove that I actually have no sense and b) so much of what happened in 2016 is going to directly influence 2017 (or so I hope), so I felt it was worth touching upon this now before moving on.
For those who know me personally, it is no secret that 2016 has been a fairly challenging one. That said, I refuse to write off an entire year despite a pretty horrific initial 6 months. I started the year with three horses, affectionately known collectively as ‘the hooligans’. Unfortunately, in June, I had to make the difficult decision to say goodbye to my 18 year old Welsh X TB, Joe, who had whirlwinded himself into my life 13 years ago and pretty much turned it upside down, albeit in the most fabulous way.
So I end the year with two horses, a little more time on my hands but still a large hole in my heart that I doubt will ever truly go away. Having lost two horses previously, it’s true when they say that the pain lessens, but you never truly get over it. I guess the same could be said for any loss. In my collective bundle of animals that are affectionately known as ‘the zoo’, I have lost four altogether this year, and each has caused a great deal of sadness. When I think back to last Christmas Eve, it is almost difficult to grasp just how much has changed in one year, but alas, such is life, especially life with animals.
As a teacher, breaking up for the Christmas holidays is always a much needed event, and I was fortunate enough to break up a whole week before Christmas. A week, I thought, that would give me plent of time for the inevitable festive preparations but also to keep two horses exercised, something that I manage to do during term time, albeit on an every-other-day basis. So you can imagine my horror on Sunday afternoon last week, when I turned up to bring the horses in and saw that Tobi was sporting an impressive flap of skin that was waving to me in the breeze. A quick inspection with a flashlight was enough to convince me that this was more than a cold-hose and bute job, so I found myself stood with a vet an hour later, while Tobi was cleaned, stapled (something I doubt he will ever forget…) and bandaged. It didn’t take much detective work to work out that the injury was a result of his own lunacy. The shredded over-reach boot was a telltale sign, but the sheer nature and angle of the injury was enough to convince to the vet that this had been done with a shod hoof (meanwhile my barefoot mare stood with a told-you-so face on next door) and that the prime suspect was the neighbouring limb.
Fortunately, Tobi has had plenty of practise when it comes to being a patient, so he has been largely very helpful at bandaging and cleaning time and has even eaten his bute and antibiotics with minimal fuss (I won’t pretend that Mr.Mollasses hasn’t played a significant part in this). The injury was deeper than top layer, and it was rather fascinating to me to get such a close-up look at the underlying muscle fibres, but less so to my friend who turned a strange shade of green when I lifted the flap of flesh to give her a closer peek. It has, however, meant that he has been out of action for this week and looks like he may be for one to two more. I’m fairly sure that this horse has figured out how to read the calendar outside his stable as he has an impressive ability to time things perfectly to cause the most disruption to my plans as possible.
As a result of him being out of action, and me not wanting to waste the first week of my holiday, I made a conscious effort to get Flo ridden every day, much to her absolute horror. We’ve had some performance issues this year, that appear to be down to a muscle disorder (PSSM) so are now four weeks into a new diet and exercise regime. I am pleased to report that I have seen a massive improvement in her stamina and her energy levels, but am less pleased when she is spooking at things that don’t exist and tanking off down hedgerows when hacking out around the fields of the farm. I had to make another small tweak to her feed in December, as fear for my safety was becoming a concern, but she settled down much better in our last schooling session so is now enjoying a 3-day Christmas break (or rather, I am).
2016 saw the arrival of ‘Professor Plum’, my 3.5 Nissan Interstar van conversion horsebox, after years of chugging about in my old faithful Leyland Daf ‘Moose’. Flo had her first attempt at Dressage this year, at Intro level, with some success, so I am keen to build on this next year and hope to move her up to some Prelims, with the idea being to possibly affiliate her in 2018.
The plan with Tobi, as ever, is to keep him alive! But I do hope to make a dressage horse out of him at some point.
So here’s to 2017!